Mining is such an ancient, manual process, dating back to the beginning of civilisation, that thinking about technology and mining together often seems incongruous. Yet mining is one sector that has been constantly transforming through technological developments since it began.
From primitive digging by hand to using motorised drills and other tools, to using fire and explosives to clear the working area, and being able to ‘surface mine’ and extract ores without digging a shaft, technology has played an important part in Australia’s biggest export industry.
The ‘fourth industrial revolution’, as this wave of technological development is known, has brought Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation to the mining sector, and with it many efficiencies and improvements.
Breaking down the barriers
Traditionally, mines operate using several organisational silos, usually between mines, processing facilities and logistics. These silos prevent end-to-end visibility and optimisation opportunities and prevent mining companies from achieving their maximum potential throughput.
In 2018, digitalisation in mining is no longer a choice but an imperative. Mines must harness innovations in energy management and automation in order to overcome today’s industry challenges, and move faster and more efficiently than ever before.
Connecting the dots
Roy Hill, in Western Australia, is focused on driving efficiencies through digitalisation. The project consists of an iron ore mine and mine process plant in the Pilbara region, a heavy haul railway system from mine-to-port, new port facilities in Port Hedland, and a Remote Operations Centre (ROC) in Perth. Each of these infrastructure components were designed to meet output capacity of 55 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) of iron ore.
To meet this capacity and streamline processes, Roy Hill enlisted the help of its industry partners and chose Schneider Electric (AVEVA) to implement a number of tailored software solutions for mining, including Demand Chain Planning and Scheduling (DCPS), Inventory Tracking and Quality Management (ITQM) and Delay Accounting (DA). This allows for optimisation of Roy Hill’s end-to-end demand chain from the pit to the port across different sites. Everything from the mine to the processing plant to rail and port are being monitored and controlled, from the ROC, which gives Roy Hill operators the chance to collaborate together in real-time to streamline operational efficiencies.
In today’s world, technology has revolutionised most industries. The way companies operate now is very different to how we operated ten or even five years ago. Roy Hill is proof that digitisation can deliver value and efficiencies even in a manual, primary industry such as mining. Although drilling deep, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the benefits of technology.